STUDENTS have hit out at plans to erect a phone mast close to New College.

Mobile phone company 3G is planning to locate the mast in the middle of Queens Drive between New College and Churchfields School.

Students say their health could be jeopardised by the mast and say they are willing to back a protest against it, which was started at the weekend.

As reported yesterday, residents living in the Queens Drive area are being urged to join a campaign to stop a phone mast being erected on their doorsteps.

Coun Peter Mallinson (Con, Walcot) says the 15-metre high pole, which transmits low-level radiation, could endanger peoples' lives if Swindon Council's planning committee allows it to go ahead.

He wants everyone living in the area to join forces to put pressure on the committee to throw the application out.

And students at New College say he is doing the right thing.

"I can't believe the company is planning to put the mast between two places full of young people and so close to homes," said 18-year-old Harriet Feltham.

"I travel in to college from Bath but I don't want to get here to be subjected to radiation.

"I would definitely support a protest against the mast because you can't just sit back and let things like this happen."

Anton Sieluzycki, 18, of Rodbourne, said: "The radiation from the masts is bad. I don't want cancer and just because the health effects haven't been proved doesn't mean they don't exist."

Other students say they don't think they need a mast in the area.

"I've never heard anyone say they can't get mobile phone coverage in this area on any network so there doesn't really seem any point for the mast," said Sharna Manners, 18, of Stratton.

Phil Hazelton, 17, of Lawn, says he doesn't have any objections to the mast being erected in principle but says it is not the best location.

"There must be other places to put the mast that are not so close to the school and our college," he said.

"It seems like one of the worst locations you could have."

Others think it will be a target for vandals.

"If the mast goes up someone will just vandalise it and make it look even worse than it would anyway," said 18-year-old Matthew Hall, of Gorse Hill.

New College has received notification of the plans from 3G and principal Graham Taylor wants to know if his students are at risk.

"We have done a lot of research into the health dangers associated with mobile phone masts and current research suggests that there is no increased danger to our students' health," he said.

"However we will be taking a precautionary approach to the proposed erection of a mobile phone mast and will be taking guidance from the local council and health and safety executive."

Later this week Coun Mallinson will be delivering 150 letters to residents living in the area close to where 3G wants to locate the mast.

"If I was a young person I would be extremely worried if I had to walk past the mast like this which is sending out radiation that you can't see, you can't touch and that you can't taste," he said.

"I think the students are right in being cautious. This is not a crackpot thing. It is a really worrying phenomenon and we must be cautious."

He added: "This week I will be asking residents to sign a petition and in the next couple of weeks I am hoping to organise a public meeting to discuss the issue."

3G was unavailable for comment.

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